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University View 22/06/2017: Mike Corcoran, Business Development and Recruitment Executive

21 June 2017

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*This article was published in the Western Mail on Thursday 22 June*

Perhaps more than any time in its recent history, the world feels a polarised place.

Rich and poor, globalism and isolationism, liberalism and conservatism, and the rise of demagoguery and extremism.

When faced with such uncertainty, we need the arts more than ever: to offer a positive intervention, and an alternative approach to tackling some of the great challenges that lie ahead of all of us.

Many of these challenges are spawned by misjudgement, oversight, fear, prejudice, and result, painfully often, in tragedy. Ultimately there is only route by which we can overcome such challenges: education.

To be educated, one must first be engaged in the subject in front of them, inspired to explore it, and able to do so with an open and unbiased mind. The role of the arts in clearing the ground for this global education is crucial.

The arts are not there to conveniently clad over the problems society is unwilling to face up to. Rather, their purpose is to hold a mirror up to the world, from which it can better understand itself.

Universities have a responsibility to equip their students for the duration of a long and illustrious career, with the skills, knowledge and understanding required to find new and creative solutions fit for an ever changing world.

No simple task: for how can we endow our students with the skills they don’t yet need, for the jobs which don’t yet exist?! However, the fundamental skills of the artist, as engager, inspirer, explorer, and open thinker, are evergreen.

At the School of Creative Arts at Wrexham Glyndwr University, our graduates leave us with foundations to last a life time and the technical dexterity to evolve as the world does so around them.

We take the core values of the arts, and working with a range of partners, turn them into real things, serving the community in which we’re embedded..

Through our community radio station Calon FM, our test space for creative risk and experimentation PERICLO, our student conference Creative Futures, and our partnerships with award winning arts organisations including Undegun Art Space and FOCUS Wales Music Festival to name but a few, our students leave us with an appreciation of exactly what the arts are for.

In 2016, sporting and cultural events generated a direct economic impact of £53 million for the Welsh economy. The arts matter, and they work.

On leaving FOCUS Wales myself after a long and highly successful ‘Digital Innovations Day’ back in May, I stumbled upon a crowd of fellow festival goers in the street, gathered around a piano wheeled out from the nearby venue. This crowd were strangers, not united by language, race, wealth, faith or political flavour, but by music, and their humanity. I joined them, and stood, amongst strangers, arm-in-arm, belting out songs as the rain beat down on our heads.

This memory came back to me as the spontaneous chorus of ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’ rang around Manchester in the wake of the horrific attack in May.

Art speaks a universal language, and it lets no division stand in its way.

Of course, no one sector can offer a simple solution to the complex and intractable challenges the world faces. But in understanding what, as an art school, and arts sector, is within our own humble sphere of influence, we can make a very real contribution to making the world a better place.

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